BERKSHIRE — Elle Purrier isn’t usually in Franklin County during the spring season, especially not for weeks at a time. Like high school and college athletes, professional athletes are also sidelined by COVID-19 closures.
With her racing season on hold, Purrier has taken her training to the roads and tracks of her home state.
The Missisquoi Valley Rail Trail is one of Purrier’s favorite local areas. The smoothly graded, traffic-free, scenic trail runs for 26 miles through fields, forests, and towns along the Missisquoi River.
“The Rail Trail is a huge resource for the community. I’d have to say one of my favorite spots is between Berkshire and Enosburg,” said Purrier, who’s run the entire trail.
“When you run behind Hannaford area, the trail opens up, and you can see the river and the mountains. I see bald eagles there regularly.”
When the country and the world are not on lockdown, Purrier travels extensively to race and to train.
“I feel really fortunate that I can travel to so many awesome places and run. The Flagstaff views are amazing, and running along the river in Boston is beautiful, but I definitely appreciate Vermont, even more, when I come home.”
Purrier, who has been training on her own in Vermont, had wise words for athletes competing at any level.
“Something I keep going back to is that I can only get upset about the things I can control. This is at a global level, and no one can control what’s going on,” said Purrier.
“No one is competing with others right now, and it’s disappointing and frustrating, but you have to do what you can do with the circumstances you’re in.
“This is a time where you can see what you can do and how resilient you can be. If you feel alone, remember, everyone is dealing with the same thing--being alone and missing out on things they were really looking forward to.”
High school seniors all over the country are grieving the loss of spring athletics and the usual festivities associated with graduating.
“I feel for the seniors because it’s so unfortunate that they are missing out on their senior spring in high school. That was a very special time for me,” said Purrier.
“My classmates, teammates, and I had so much fun. I’m hoping this year’s seniors can make the most of the circumstances. Hopefully, they can enjoy some of those senior things together later in the summer as things open up.”
In the meantime, athletes of all ages are faced with the challenge of staying fit and focused in unprecedented times.
“It’s a good time to take care of yourself, take care of others in need, and pick up some hobbies,” said Purrier.
“I think we’re pretty lucky here in our rural area compared to other places in the world. Some areas have been hit so hard with this virus. We can be grateful for safety and good health.”
When it comes to running and training, Purrier has continued to push herself.
“It might be hard to see that the things you are doing now will benefit you later. All the training I did last year made me a stronger athlete and runner now,” explained Purrier.
“I can see the benefits of the bigger mileage weeks and harder workouts that I did months ago. The fitness I’m getting right now will help me improve and be even better later when I’m able to start competing.”
Relationships are also important, especially in stressful times like these.
“I’ve stayed in contact with my teammates through text, phone, and Snapchat, and that really helps me. They’re doing the same things I am, and they can relate--whether it’s training, being tired, or feeling sore,” said Purrier.
“When I’m out there doing a hard workout or running big miles, I’ll be thinking of them working next to me. If you can, talk with friends and teammates in a similar boat.”
Purrier encouraged athletes who will be competing next year at any level, to reach out to others.
“Keep your fitness up, reach out to your coaches or friends, set up a plan on what to do to stay in shape, and stay ready. You have to do what you need to do to get through,” said Purrier.
“You have to give yourself some credit, too, getting out alone can be hard.”
On Monday, May 12th, Purrier headed to the track at Collins Perley to get in some training.
“I was nervous. My coach, Mark Coogan, has basically been doing base training with us for the past few weeks since I’ve been home. Then all of a sudden, he threw a tough track workout at us,” said Purrier.
“I had my friend meet me and time me, and just having her there doing exactly what my coach would be doing helped me get through that. She’s a real moral support.”
When it comes to controlling what one can control, Purrier speaks from experience. With Olympic Trials and a race season sidelined, she knows first hand the disappointment of a canceled season.
“Get out there and stay fit as much as you can. Take care of yourself, and enjoy what you can with the downtime you have,” said Purrier.
“Enjoy being outside! I appreciate living in Vermont more now than ever since I’ve been away.”